New AAPB Special Collection of Raw Interviews from American Experience’s ‘The Abolitionists’

The Abolitionists takes place during some of the most violent and contentious decades in American history, … bitter debates over the meaning of the Constitution and the nature of race.  – American Experience

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The Abolitionists Interview Collection is comprised of 51 raw interviews from the three-part American Experience miniseries of the same name, which aired on PBS in 2013. The series follows the lives of prominent abolitionists including Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Angelina Grimké, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and explores differing and often conflicting approaches to abolishing slavery in the United States.

The Abolitionists interviews examine the historical contexts of the subjects and their lasting legacy on American history and law. Interviews were conducted with authors, educators, and historians, including Manisha Sinha, Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; James Brewer Stewart, Professor of History at Macalester College, and Founder of Historians Against Slavery; John Stauffer, author and Professor of English and African and African American Studies at Harvard University; and Lois Brown, Professor of African American Studies at Wesleyan University. Subjects discussed include abolition, slavery, racism, the American Constitution, Christianity, civil rights, and the American Civil War.

Access the collection at http://americanarchive.org/special_collections/the-abolitionists-interviews!

Collection Background

The Abolitionists interviews were conducted in 2012 for the three-part series of the same name. Nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series, Rob Rapley served as the director. In 2017, the WGBH Media Library and Archives digitized The Abolitionists interviews and in 2018 submitted them to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

Featured Interviews

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Manisha Sinha is Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of “The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina” (University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and “To Live and Die in the Holy Cause: Abolition and the Origins of America’s Interracial Democracy.”

James Brewer Stewart, James Wallace Professor of History Emeritus, Macalester College, retired, and the founder and director of Historians Against Slavery. Stewart’s books include Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery. He has published biographies of four very well-known enemies of slavery: Joshua R. Giddings, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, and Hosea Easton. His most recent books include Abolitionist Politics and the Coming of the Civil War (2008) and Venture Smith and the Business of Slavery and Freedom (2009).

Lois Brown is a professor in the African American Studies Program and the Department of English at Wesleyan University. Brown’s scholarship and research focus on African American and New England literary history and culture.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, associate professor of Black American Studies with joint appointments in history and in women and gender studies at the University of Delaware.

Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor American Colonial and Revolutionary History; Women’s History, Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, Baruch College. Her publications include: Civil War Wives: The Life and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant (2009).

John Stauffer is Chair of the History of American Civilization and Professor of English and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Among his works include: GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (2008), The Writings of James McCune Smith: Black Intellectual and Abolitionist (2006), and The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom.

National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Conference Resources

Available Online: 35,000+ Educational Video and Audio Resources and Primary Sources

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) recently met with K-12 educators, administrators, and teachers-in-training at the annual National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Conference, a melding of the minds to help advocate and build capacity for high-quality social studies through leadership, services, and support.

As a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH Educational Foundation, the AAPB provides an online archive, open and available to the public, of historic public radio and television programs from across the nation, spanning public broadcasting’s 70+ year history. From local and regional to national productions, the AAPB allows the public to access 36,000 (and growing) programs and original materials, from local news and documentaries to talk shows and raw interviews, and more all available at americanarchive.org!

To learn more about the AAPB, watch this informational video with example clips at https://vimeo.com/108272934.


For easier access and navigation, below is a deeper dive into AAPB’s resources:

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The AAPB provides online access to users anywhere in the United States with a wide range of historic public television and radio programs that were submitted for digitization by more than 120 stations and archives from across the country. More than 36,000 programs are available online for research, educational and informational purposes, spanning public broadcasting’s 70+ year history. The entire collection is available for research on location at WGBH and the Library of Congress.

*Start with AAPB’s Road Trip Special Collection at http://americanarchive.org/special_collections/aapb-road-trip!

Check out our participating organizations at http://americanarchive.org/participating-orgs.


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Because of the geographical breadth of the material, students can use the collection to help uncover ways that national historical events played out on the local scene. The long chronological reach from the late 1940s to the present provides researchers with previously inaccessible primary source material to document change over time.


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Some notable collections are featured on the Special Collections page with finding aids that include information such as the scope and content of the collection, provenance and background information about its creator and source, recommended search strategies, and related resources. Collections include:

Raw interviews –

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 12.34.25 PM.png1964 (American Experience)
The Abolitionists (American Experience)
Jubilee Singers (American Experience)
Freedom Riders (American Experience)
The Murder of Emmett Till (American Experience)
Reconstruction (American Experience)
Africans in America (WGBH)

American Masters (WNET)
Ken Burn’s The Civil War (American Documentaries, Inc.)

Early educational broadcasting –

National Association of Educational Broadcasters Programs
National Educational Television Collection

Locally and nationally distributed programs and documentaries –

Center for Asian American Media
Firing Line
Georgia Gazette (GPB)
Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) News and Cultural Programming
PBS NewsHour
Say Brother (WGBH)
Vision Maker Media Documentaries
Woman (WNED)

Direct link to our Special Collections: http://americanarchive.org/special_collections


AAPB staff and guest curators create exhibits of selected programs and recordings that focus on themes, topics, and events of cultural and historical significance. Primary and secondary sources contextualize a curatedexhibit1-e1544117844344.pngdiversity of perspectives concerning the exhibit’s focus and as a result, AAPB exhibits often illuminate how public broadcasting stations and producers have covered topics such as the Watergate hearings, climate change, protesting in America, civil rights, and more!

Direct link to our Curated Exhibits: http://americanarchive.org/exhibits


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Contact Ryn Marchese, AAPB’s Engagement and Use Manager, to inquire about bringing these materials into your classroom: ryn_marchese@wgbh.org!

And feel free to share our resource with your local school, public and academic librarians! We’ve created a AAPB Library Communications Kit with details on how to describe the AAPB on website/resource guides and embed our player and harvest metadata from our catalog. We’ve also included a link to our webinar with the Boston Library Consortium on the “Accessibility of AAPB in Academic Libraries,” most of which will be applicable to the public librarian community.

For information about the AAPB that you can print for your classroom, email to fellow teachers, or post about online, feel free to use our Informational Flyer!


Most recommended content during NCSS?

Based on our conversations with teachers, below are a few programs we most recommended during the conference!

  1. PBS NewsHour Special Collection – The PBS NewsHour Collection includes more than 8,000 episodes of PBS NewsHour’s predecessor programs from October 1975 to December 2007 covering local and national conversations.
  2. “Gavel-to-Gavel”: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television Curated Exhibit – Here you will find guides to each episode of the public hearings that were digitized, links to transcripts, and highlights to peruse. To help identify people in the videos, the Cast of Characters page includes photos and titles for the important figures in the hearings. The Watergate Scandal, 1972-1974 page gives an explanation of the who, what, when, where, and why of Watergate to help guide you through the coverage. If you would like a more in depth essay on the significant role that Watergate played in the history of public broadcasting, please click on the Watergate and Public Broadcasting link.
  3. Field Trip Series from Main Public Broadcasting – Field Trip is a series of short educational documentaries that explore Maine’s history, culture, and agriculture from fish hatcheries to how low/high tides work — there’s so much to explore!
  4. Local Content – Search our participating stations for local content!

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The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston that preserves and makes accessible significant public radio and television programs before they are lost to posterity. The AAPB collection includes more than 50,000 recorded hours comprising over 90,000 digitized and born-digital programs, and original materials dating back to the late 1940s, and is growing!

Written by Ryn Marchese, AAPB Engagement and Use Manager

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@amarchivepub